BAI Communications UK is delighted to announce that Ken Ranger has relocated from Toronto to London to take up a new post as Chief Operating Officer. Ken has been employed at BAI for seven years.
In Canada, Ken built and led the team responsible for the rollout of the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) cellular, IP and Wi-Fi network across the Toronto subway. Before BAI, Ken was a principal at telecoms engineering firm acquired by WSP, which advised BAI on its bid for delivering connectivity on the Toronto underground system. Ken’s engineering and telecoms knowledge comes from decades of experience at a range of top tier businesses including AT&T and Sentrex Communications Inc.
Here, we asked Ken to share his insights on the lessons learned and discusses how he developed his winning team in Toronto to deliver their ambitious programme of work.
Starting connectivity from scratch
When Ken was appointed to lead the business, he reflects that it was a case of starting from the ground up. ‘Nothing had been done,’ he explains. ‘I was the first employee and had to start from scratch; setting up an operation, writing policies and procedures. You name it, I was responsible; such is the life of the CEO in a start-up.’
He built his team with a clear focus on finding people with experience and the potential to help him achieve his business plan. In December 2012, the business was appointed to deliver connectivity on the Toronto subway system as part of a 20-year licence agreement. Today, BAI’s infrastructure facilitates 200,000 Wi-Fi logins from 100,000 users across 75 subway stations each weekday.
The service is made possible by the independent communications infrastructure BAI invests in, owns and operates. This in turn generates revenue for the TTC, Toronto’s transport network operator.
Collaborating with transport authorities
Ken’s key priority once he had built his team was to establish a relationship with the transport authority. ‘I know how to deploy infrastructure,’ he says. ‘But every transport authority is unique. I had to listen and understand how we could meet our goals and their goals at the same time.’
Collaboration is a key part of BAI’s operating method and is in its DNA; the business builds and maintains independent infrastructure networks to deliver connectivity underground. This single, shared infrastructure solution brings together all interested parties, including transport authorities, operational staff, technology partners and mobile network operators (MNOs).
The shared technology platform is offered to MNOs on an open access basis, allowing them to extend their mobile coverage to underground portions of the subway. For busy, hard to reach areas, like tunnels, this approach offers MNOs a low cost, high quality solution to connectivity. Instead of each MNO installing their own infrastructure, the operators are able to share technology that has been provided by BAI.
Future-proofing BAI’s technology
Technology is constantly evolving. Work carried out only a few years ago can quickly become outdated. A crucial part of keeping up with change is ensuring that BAI’s technology solutions are designed with future advancements in mind. Ken explains: ‘We know for certain that technology is going to change. That’s why we put as much fibre as we can into a system, so that no matter what applications come later, we will be able to leverage the infrastructure that we put in.’
BAI’s model also incentivises the business to keep up with the latest innovations. ‘As a company, we’re agnostic,’ Ken says. ‘We build the proverbial motorway and then it’s up to us to ensure that there is enough traffic on it over the long-term to earn a return on the capital that BAI invests. This means that as things change, and we know they are going to, it’s in our best interest to keep up with technology as it evolves.’
Given that access to the cramped, underground environments that BAI operates in is often restricted, the business has developed a system to ensure that its technology can be easily upgraded with little disruption to transport services.
‘First, we get the infrastructure within the ground up to speed,’ Ken says. ‘As the technology advances, we can implement our upgrades without disturbing the service. In particular, any investments can be installed without accessing the train track.’
Delivering for passengers
Ken firmly believes that improved connectivity is in passengers’ interests. ‘The more connected a transport network is, the easier it is for people to use it,’ he explains. ‘They feel safer, they know where they are going, and they feel less rushed because they can stay in touch with colleagues, friends and family.’
But the benefits of connectivity go beyond general enjoyment for travellers. ‘There’s also a productivity boost if you are able to continue doing underground in the same way you would do above ground,’ says Ken. Londoners spend an average of 84 minutes per day commuting. Better connectivity could make the daily commute easier and increase productivity. Other advantages are real-time information about delays, reduced station wait time, warnings about crowding along the route, or advice on which carriages are most likely to have empty seats or space for prams.
BAI already delivers connectivity for millions around the world, but the business is always looking ahead. ‘Every day, from London, to New York, to Toronto and Hong Kong, our team is focused on connectivity, underground spaces and transport,’ Ken explains. ‘Whether it’s working with data at an aggregate level, finding out the best way for people to use a system or even securing patents for putting products into underground systems, BAI has a wealth of experience. That’s our business.’
BAI is certainly a global company and Ken’s move to London is at an exciting time for the business. He is looking forward to bringing his wealth of experience and at the same time, playing a key role in the team as they progress their plans for London and the UK.